Archaeoacoustics as a New Approach in the Study of Intangible Cultural Heritage
The application of new technologies to cultural heritage has led to important methodological changes in the protection and enhancement of monuments. This new approach is stated in the objectives of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which aims to restore meaning and preserve the memory of historic buildings, promoting the application of technology in the assessment of monuments: this is particularly interesting with regard to the recovery of archaeological heritage. The European Commission report, New Technologies for the Cultural and Scientific Heritage Sector,states that virtual reality will provide “an impressive, immersive and involving product”.
Within this context, archaeoacoustics is being used as a new method for the analysis of historical heritage, enabling the evaluation of the sound quality of a spaceby using auralisation techniques which allow cognitive and physical elements to be reproduced and combined.
This project is the first study on the virtual reconstruction of the acoustics of cultic theatres of the Greek world. Despite their relevance to this field, no study has focused on the acoustics of these buildings. The STESICHOROS project aims to assess the cultic theatres acoustics through the acoustic reconstruction of a particular case study at Selinunte in Sicily.It is also hoped that the results might provide some foundations from which to create experimental interpretative reconstructions of what the cultic theatres might have sounded like, using acoustics and digital technology.
Cultic theatres belong to a group of theatral structures found in various regions of the Greek world: these buildings were suited to musical performances of poets and musicians who, like Stesichoros (VII-VI c. BCE), performed song recitations. Many of these structures were not proper “theatres”, but rather primitive rows of seats (meaning non-canonical theatres, with linear and non-circular theatra and/or orchestra). The acoustics of the linear theatrain the Greek world have never been analysed: no study has focused on the acoustics of these theatres in order to understand how and why these spaces were chosen for auditory and synaesthetic experiences.
Thanks to the present project, auralisation techniques will be used to explore the spatial dimension of sound in the cultic theatres, establishing a relationship between the spatial configuration of these structures and their intangible aspects, such as sound.
The overall objective of this project is the assessment and recovery of the lost intangible heritage of cultic theatresʼ acoustics through acoustic reconstruction of these spaces of the past. To do this, a particular case study in Sicily will be assessed.
The results will establish a new framework, which future researchers can use to advance their knowledge of the application of 3D technology to virtual acoustics in order to offer an innovative research method in visualisation and immersive experiences related to the reconstruction of archaeological sites and their soundscape.
Originality and innovative aspects of the STESICHOROS project
This project will offer an innovative research method by making connections between digital heritage and acoustical techniques. It is also hoped that the results will provide some foundations from which to create interpretative reconstructions of what the cultic theatres might have sounded like, using digital and acoustical technology.
The interdisciplinary aspects of the action
The project will develop a new a theoretical basis, which will contribute to the establishment of a methodology at the crossroads of archaeomusicology, virtual acoustics, and digital technologies. In addition, this study is part of a programme intended to highlight Europe’s ancient cultural roots from an archaeomusicological, digital, and “sensory” perspective with cross-disciplinary approaches to human culture and technology, in order to unveil new meanings and create new research fields within digital heritage science.
 European Communities, DigiCULT, Technological Landscapes for Tomorrow’s Cultural Economy, Luxembourg, 2002. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/ist/docs/digicult/full_report.pdf .